Captain H. L. Mills
Captain H. L. Mills is a comparatively young navigator who has succeeded in demonstrating that he is qualified to handle successfully one of the largest and most valuable steel steamers on the lakes. He was born October 22, 1860, at Smithville, five miles from Sacket's Harbor, N. Y., and is the son of Luther and Annie M. (Potter) Mills. The father died when our subject was but a year old, the mother joining him in the better world in 1880, having continued with the assistance of our subject to manage the old homestead farm near Smithville. Hattie A., a twin sister of the Captain, and the only other child, followed her mother four years later to the realm beyond the clouds. In the meantime Captain Mills acquired a liberal education in the public schools at Smithville, and had adopted for his course in life the career of a mariner.
Sacket's Harbor is the scene of much of the earliest history of the lakes, and from that port came a large number of the most notable mariners whose lives were associated with the history contained in these volumes, and it was out of that port that young Mills chose to ship in the United States steamer Surveyor with Captain Powell. This boat was engaged in a survey of the lakes, and he remained with her one season. He then went to New York and joined the full-rigged ship Thomas M. Reed, on a voyage around the Horn to San Francisco. The ship left New York on January 7, and made a long passage of 147 days, reaching San Francisco on June 3. It seemed that the ship was a veritable Flying Dutchman No. 2, as she lay six weeks in the latitude of the Horn without being able to make any progress on her course. After reaching San Francisco, the Captain left his ship and joined the steamer Vera Cruz, plying in the coasting trade between San Francisco and San Pedro, and later shipping in the steamer Orizaba, Goodale & Perkins being the agents. [Mr. Perkins was some years later elected governor of California.] While on the Pacific coast Captain Mills also shipped on a schooner in the lumber trade between ports on the Columbia river and Portland, Oregon, and in the bark Topgallant in the same trade. Getting word of his mother's last illness he took passage by way of the Isthmus of Panama for home, where he arrived in time to receive the blessings of his dying mother.
In the spring of 1881 Captain Mills shipped as seaman in the lighthouse tender Haze with Capt. James McKenzie, was soon promoted to the office of quartermaster, and remained in her two years. He then joined as wheelsman the Union line steamer Avon, with Captain Phelps. In the spring of 1884 he was appointed second mate in the notable steamer Dean Richmond, with Capt. Frank Provost, holding that office two seasons, transferring to the steamer Portage, of the same line, as mate in 1886. The following spring he became mate of the steamer Cuba with Captain Young, but closed the season on the Kasota as mate with Capt. A. E. White. In 1888 he entered the employ of Capt. James Corrigan as master of the large schooner C. W. Adams, transferring as master to the steamer Raleigh; before the close of the season was promoted to be master of the steamer Caledonia, and in 1890 he got the steamer Bulgaria to sail. In the spring of 1891 Captain Mills was appointed master of the steamer John Harper, owned by the American Transportation Company, and sailed her successfully for six years. It was in 1897 that Captain Mills became master of the steel steamer Crescent City, which has a carrying capacity of over 5,500 gross tons.
On January 15, 1890, Capt. H. L. Mills was wedded to Miss Carrie M., daughter of O. M. and Angeline Stanley, of Smithville, N. Y. The family homestead is situated at No. 2 Pleasant street, Watertown, New York.
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This version of Volume II is based, with permission, on the work of the great volunteers at the Marine Captains Biographies site. To them goes the credit for reorganizing the content into some coherent order. The biographies in the original volume are in essentially random order.
Some of the transcription work was also done by Brendon Baillod, who maintains an excellent guide to Great Lakes Shipwreck Research.